Here’s the thing about Instagram—you can’t choose not to see your friends’ photos. On Facebook, at least you can opt out of clicking through 76 shots of your ex-boyfriend’s cousin’s new girlfriend’s family trip to Playa del Carmen (not that you will, but hey, at least you have the choice). But, on Instagram, they appear one after the other in a steady stream of turquoise, palm trees and excessively garnished tropical beverages. And, because Google Analytically speaking, you’re a millennial who checks his/her phone an average of 163 times a day, there’s nowhere to hide.
You can’t un-see those crepes oozing artisanal chocolate spread your friend posted from Paris while you nibble multigrain toast at your desk. Or the steam rising from that darn Icelandic lagoon everyone you know seems to have visited this year while the steam from the subway grate curls around your Hunters. Or those Santa Monica waves crashing just beyond a set of glistening hot-dog legs while your own sweatpant-clad thighs get pricklier by the day.
There are those things we wish we could comment on our friends’ Instagrams from Cali or Bali or Maui, and there are the things we actually write. (You know, when our sass-barometer tells us we’re edging dangerously close to “Nicki Minaj at the VMAs.”) Here are all those think-but-never-say things we sometimes wish we could comment. #NoFilter.
The sunbathing selfie
If a twenty-something goes on vacation, but there’s no one there to see it, how do you know if they went on vacation at all? The answer is you don’t. (Pics or it didn’t happen!) Trips have a way of upping the Insta-ante, which may be why the “selfie in the sunshine” has become a traveler trope of initials-in-the-sand proportions. Skin tanned 70% by UVAs and 30% by the “slumber” filter. Lips carefully pouted into something between a fish gape and a duck face. Tilted phones reflected in mirrored aviators (busted). It’s all just part of the #authentic experience, right?
The only thing better than one Polaroid is this oh-so-meta, three-in-one punch of pure life envy. Just try explaining your Instax Mini Instagrams to your Gen-Polaroid parents: “You see, I take these tiny grainy photos, then I arrange them as though scattered haphazardly atop this Moroccan tile, then I take a picture of that picture and THEN I filter it so that it looks tiny and grainy again. It’s just logic, you see?”
The splurge-y prop
Whether it’s a yellow convertible, a five-star boutique hotel room or a yacht with one of those safety nets (read: perches for sunbathing models and their entourages) out front, no vacation Instagram is complete without a requisite budget-breaking prop. What’s not so kosher is when said splurge is being documented by your flaky former roommate who still owes you half a year’s worth of Wi-Fi payments.
The art-directed humblebrag
Granted, some photos are just photos, plain and simple. But when it comes to the highly competitive world of vacation documentation, what may seem like an innocuous snap is really a multi-layered inner monologue of measured humblebrag. Exhibit A: The Book on the Beach. This photo says three things: One – I appreciate every sun-drenched minute of my charmed life, except for when I am late and/or hangry. Two – I am a master of metaphor with a keen eye for a photo op. And three – I read for pleasure, and therefore, am wife material.
The call to action (or, the tell-me-what-to-do-on-this-vacation-you-weren’t-invited-on)
Those who aren’t Type-A travelers armed with enough Lonely Planet guides to quickly turn a carry-on into a checked bag will be familiar with the “any suggestions?” Instagram—the one where you ask all of your friends (A.K.A. poor peasants stuck at their desks on a Monday afternoon) to weigh in on what they want rubbed in their faces next. “Um, yes, Melissa, I suggest next time you invite me. Also, I heard the Statue of Liberty is nice!”
The local cuisine (Or, the burger stand two Americans opened in Spain)
Ah, the gluttonous vacation-feast shot. From doughnuts bitten with Apple-logo precision to the bird’s-eye view of a table filled edge-to-edge with technicolor tapas, it’s a staple in every seasoned traveler’s Insta-arsenal. There’s just something about 6,000 calories worth of carbohydrates in the clutches of tiny bird-hands that unleashes our inner Kelly Osbourne, you know?
All photos by Chelsey Burnside.